RDC Data Alternatives: Conducting Research During COVID-19


Recent physical distancing protocols pertaining to the COVID-19 Pandemic have meant that RDC researchers need to find alternatives ways of carrying out their research. The Real Time Remote Access (RTRA) program offers one alternative way to access confidential Statistics Canada data. Other options include using the Statistics Canada public use files and analyzing data from other sources.

The presenters, data librarians from Western Libraries discussed the differences between the data that can be accessed through the RTRA the RDC. RTRA data is a very useful option for some types of questions but also has some important limitations. Also discussed was public use files and custom tabulations and descriptions of how to access them.

In addition, the presenters highlighted alternative sources of data from Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere that are similar to the Statistics Canada master datasets. These may be particularly useful for graduate students who may not be able to wait for the RDC to re-open but who need to conduct analyses that are more sophisticated than the RTRA or public use files will permit.


Delivered online to users of the Western Research Data Centre, 30 April 2020.

Details can be found on Scholarship@Western

Closed due to COVID-19

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the RDC network will remain closed until the University reopens.

This is obviously inconvenient for all of us, but it might be worthwhile to consider the following options:

  1. Move on to different projects if possible.
  2. Think about doing your project with public-use data file. Kristi Thompson and Elizabeth Hill are very knowledgeable about Canadian data, and have offered to help any researchers that are interested in exploring public-use options.
  3. Consider using data from other countries.  

For students that are hoping to complete their programs in the coming months, I suggest you discuss alternative arrangements with your supervisors.  Western has not yet decided how it will handle current deadlines, although I think everyone realizes that some changes will need to be made. SGPS has also set up a news page here: https://grad.uwo.ca/covid19/index.html

About the Research Data Centre @ Western

The Statistics Canada Research Data Centre at Western University, with branch at the University of Windsor, provides access to detailed data for research, promotes the use of data through associated training, and assists in the dissemination of research results.

The RDC@Western opened in 2004 and is part of a network of 30 Statistics Canada Research Data Centres and associated Branches in Canadian universities.

Featured: Continuum of Data Access 

Western Libraries will be holding the Continuum of Data Access on Thursday, February 27th at 1:30 in the Instruction Room of the D.B. Weldon Library.

Statistics Canada Data products are valuable resources for research and teaching purposes. Access to a range of data files and data products with differing levels of confidentiality and geography can be accessed at Western. These files and products are used to teach data literacy, statistical methods, to combine population, health, income and economic data with researcher collected sources.

In this presentation, participants will learn the range of products and access methods available to them at Western. Specific access methods include the Statistics Canada public data site, the Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) program, the Research Data Centre (RDC) program, and the Real Time Remote Access (RTRA) program.

Leave knowing:

  • Different levels of confidential and public data
  • How to access Statistics Canada data
  • Relevant research data products and their uses


Register Now